Messages Home: Quilt tells a story (& builds the village)

May 17, 2010 by

Loretta Jasper, csj

Sisters, Associates, Family and Friends:

My first full school year of tending to needs of the heart and hearth with military kiddos, families and staff in school settings within the Junction City/Fort Riley area is coming to an end. Since September 2009, two of my three rotations have involved beginning and ending the year by working between the same two off-post elementary schools, with the middle rotation involving work with military affiliated high schoolers  within Junction City High School.

In March, during my last session of Brat Chat with the Junction City High School military kiddos, each student designed a quilt block that depicted part of his or her story as a military kiddo.  Leona Flavin and Karin O’Reilly, my sis and niece, kindly offered to transform the blocks into a quilt designed and machine quilted by each respectively.  The end result for one of the walls within Junction City High School? A lovely quilt — a small snippet of visual history — that depicts the effect war and multiple deployments have upon teenagers and families who have a caregiver in and out of the battlefield; aka, down range.

The one block shows it all: “I love the Army; I love the USA; I hate the war.”  Other blocks in the quilt include issues related to  changing friends and schools; learning how to deal with the returning soldier/parent affected by the war; assuming the role of surrogate parent either by absence of the one parent; or inability of the remaining parent to tend and juggle the multiple levels of need in the household; and, the teenager re-directing personal anger related to the above.

I returned to my two original off-post elementary schools in March to support and assist kiddos, families, and staff in wrapping up the school year.

As you might guess, many of the staff in the school themselves are either current or retired military.  Many staff have spouses who are either deploying, returning or re-deploying.  Talk about a bus person’s holiday!  The stressors that occur within the existing educational systems are only one aspect of staff concerns when one is a military spouse working with military kiddos.  Enter myself and my colleagues who are present and available to  support and assist with matters of the heart throughout each day for whomever.

In the process of providing a special time with the elementary school kiddos during lunch time, volumes are shared.  A simple plastic tablecloth with a centerpiece placed on a table in the school library creates the special place to have lunch.  I  ask the same question of each lunch group each time: “What has changed in your life since the last time we met for lunch?”

Responses from the 6- to 13-year-olds in a mere 20 minutes might include:

The quilt made from blocks designed by teenagers who have been working with Sister Loretta Jasper will soon decorate a wall at Junction City High School.

  • My Dad is home on R&R for two weeks. Having him home is like having the boom-a-rang come down from the roof. It is as if he never left, now that I see him again. Now when he goes again for a long time, I have to figure another way to imagine he is with me.
  • Now that my Dad has gone, my Mom cries all night and I cannot get to sleep.
  • I cannot sleep; afraid that (s)he will not return
  • Both of my parents are in Iraq. My grandmother has moved from Texas until school is out to take care of me.
  • When my dad returns to Iraq after his R&R I am afraid he will not come back, and I am afraid I will really have to be the “man of the house”.
  • I do not understand how the Army can continue to take our Dads away over and over again without knowing how our families are having such a hard time without them.
  • I talk with Mom/Dad via email/webcam/phone. Some kiddos: daily; some 2x month, depending upon the assignment of the parent and the reception in the locale where the parent is located.  (I continue to create ways for the child to enhance the conversation and interaction with the absent parent, and also provide parents with options to do the same with the child: help with homework, share activities and homework, transmit cards, photos, care packages, etc.)

Responses to the question “What did you do special for your mother?” from this same age group following Mothers’ Day:

  • Gave her the card made in school.  No gifts.
  • Made breakfast in bed: from cold cereal to pancakes.
  • Made all meals for Mom.
  • Neighbors brought in a bouquet of flowers… Dad is deployed; children are young.
  • Did my chores; and cleaned the house.

The village is large and includes many who continue to tend to the heart of those who are absent and those who are physically present. My sister and niece are a small part of the village as well.  They, too, are preparing for the September re-deployment of my grand-niece’s spouse. My grand-niece?  She is a teacher in the off-post middle school that is located less than one mile from one of “my”  elementary schools within the Junction City/Fort Riley area.

Do we really truly know our villages and our dear neighbors?

Loretta Jasper, csj


2 Responses to “Messages Home: Quilt tells a story (& builds the village)”

  1. Ramona Medina, CSJ on May 19th, 2010 8:18 am

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful and heart breaking stories…in the form of a lovely quilt and art piece. You have touched , enriched and helped heal so many lives, Loretta. You are truly attentive to the needs of the “dear neighbor.” Ramona

  2. PATRCUSHING CSJ -BOSTON on May 18th, 2010 1:49 pm

    great story of tending to the dear neighbor – those who risk their lives and family so taht the rest of us can be ‘free’ to tend to our dear neighbor.
    pretty awesome work Loretta….you make us PROUD


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